Writing Advice From The Founder of The Novelry, Man Booker Longlisted Author Louise Dean

‘Hello, It’s Ben from Simon & Schuster. Well, as you probably know I love your book and we’d like to be your publisher.’

That’s the phone call every writer hopes to get. Here are the 20 things I did to get that phone call, and then I’m going to give you the 5 things you can do to get the same call.

  1. I read everything. My mother bought and sold paperbacks, including Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and Barbara Cartland.
  2. I went to a great university, partied my way through it, failed to get into banking and took a job that didn’t fulfil me creatively.
  3. All this while I was saying to myself “I’m not clever enough to be a writer, and I’m not a good person.”
  4. I started writing down my dreams.
  5. I started writing down more than my dreams and sketching too. I sat on pavements to look at people passing by and wrote little affectionate notes on them, imagining their lives.
  6. I met an American boy and he looked at my notebook and said ‘Hey, you can write.”
  7. I married him and moved to Hong Kong.
  8. I read American writers, drank whiskey late at night and wrote short stories.
  9. My mother said my short stories were really bad.
  10. I moved to New York. I took another job that didn’t fulfil me creatively. I partied. I sat on pavements writing.
  11. I wrote a novel about my home country and its funny little people.
  12. I sent it to Farrar Straus and Giroux. The editor said ‘Hey you can write – but this book isn’t right.’
  13. I got pregnant. I worked with said men in their line of work didn’t like women with babies. I quit. I gave birth and thought – hell, I can do anything now.
  14. I wrote another book. It was terrible. I sent it to agents who said: “We can’t bear to read any more books on that subject.”
  15. I had another child and still wrote.
  16. I got pregnant again and read Chekhov, JM Coetzee and Raymond Carver on loop, every night and wrote in the mornings.
  17. I  was an atheist and had a religious experience. I saw signs everywhere and wrote them down.
  18. I finished a third novel the day before I gave birth to my daughter. Her name means ‘I have what I need.’
  19. I sent that novel to three agents. I signed up with the first agent that got in touch with me.
  20. I had the phone in my hand and was standing panting outside in the heat when it rang. I had been writing then for six years. Three kids. Three books. I said – yes, please.

That was 20 years ago.

That book won some awards, got Man Booker longlisted and was sold internationally. I wrote another three novels.

Then it got tough. I was lonely and becoming misanthropic. Not a good trait for a writer. I thought – hey, why do most industries bang on about teamwork but we writers write alone, blind to whether the work is good or bad until it’s very late in the day. Years late. I knew that every novel had been a learning process and writing each one was new every time.

So I started The Novelry and the writers came. Now we are published and aspiring writers writing together, alongside each other, and it’s joy. Pure joy.

Here’s how you can get published in these good times.

  1. Love reading. Want to learn the craft of writing. Join us at The Novelry.
  2. If you’re short of an idea, don’t worry. Take the Classic Course and learn how to build a world in fiction. Learn the techniques and methods of writers like JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, JK Rowling and more. Delve into your own unique life experience and find the story inside you. You’ll lave the course with a plan for your novel and plenty of material.
  3. If you have an idea and need to write it, write it fast. Remember as Hemingway said ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’ Maybe so, maybe not but you need to see the story to know the story and to really write the story. So write it in a season as Stephen King advises with our Ninety Day Novel ® course. It’s an online course, available worldwide, you can sign up at any time and you’ll be guided step-by-step, daily, and supported all the way to ‘The End.’ With one-to-one trouble shotting sessions and plenty of whooping and encouragement from fellow writers, no one gets left behind.
  4. Put that pen down! Leave that novel in a drawer for at least a month and read other great books again, then return to the novel and produce a second draft using our Editing Your Novel course.
  5. Submit the first three chapters one by one to our novelists’ community for warm wise feedback. Then when you’ve taken on board all the constructive and cheering praise, you send it to me, Louise Dean, founder of The Novelry and I will submit for you to our leading literary agency partners who promise to VIP fast-track what we submit to them because the standard is high.

I get to make that phone call now.

Just last week I called a writer who on our first live chat online said to me ‘ I think I’m too old now to be an author.’ She took our courses and went to our writers for help.

When she picked up I said, ‘Hey, the agent loves your voice and wants to represent you.’

I can’t tell you how good it was to make that phone call.

Happy days. Happy writing. Go for it. Do the work and you’ll get your call.

 

Louise Dean is founder of The Novelry. The Novelry’s courses have been named in the top creative writing courses online worldwide by The Bookfox, winner of ‘Best Course to Write Your Novel’ and ‘Best Editing Course’. The Novelry offers online writing courses and residential writers retreats with guest tutors bestselling award-winning authors Kit de Waal and Sophie Hannah.

 

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam writes prose fiction and creative non-fiction. She is the founder of creativewritingnews.com. Her first novella, Finding Love Again was published by Ankara Press. Her second novella, The Heiress' Bodyguard was shortlisted for the Saraba Manuscript Awards. She currently works as content marketer for various online businesses. You can follow her at @cwritingnws.

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